Neurobehavioral and Medical Correlates of Autism Screening: 2-Year Outcomes for Infants Born Very Preterm.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2023.113536


OBJECTIVE: To identify neonatal characteristics and 2-year neurodevelopmental outcomes associated with positive screening for risk of autism.

STUDY DESIGN: Nine university-affiliated neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) enrolled infants born atDevelopment, Third Edition, the Child Behavior Checklist, and the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, revised with follow-up (M-CHAT-R/F) at 2 years of corrected age. Generalized estimating equations examined associations between M-CHAT-R/F, neurobehavioral test results, and neonatal medical morbidities.

RESULTS: At 2 years of corrected age, data were available for 466 of 744 enrolled infants without cerebral palsy. Infants with hypoaroused NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale profiles were more likely to screen M-CHAT-R/F-positive (OR 2.76, 95% CI 1.38-5.54). Infants with ≥2 medical morbidities also were more likely to screen positive (OR 2.65, 95% CI 1.27-5.54). Children with positive M-CHAT-R/F scores had lower Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition, Cognitive (t [451] = 5.43, P < .001, d = 0.82), Language (t [53.49] = 7.82, P < .001, d = 1.18), and Motor (t [451] = 7.98, P < .001, d = 1.21) composite scores and significantly greater Child Behavior Checklist Internalizing (t [457] -6.19, P < .001, d = -0.93) and Externalizing (t [57.87] = -5.62, P < .001, d = -0.84) scores.

CONCLUSIONS: Positive M-CHAT-R/F screens at 2 years of corrected age were associated with neonatal medical morbidities and neurobehavioral examinations as well as toddler developmental and behavioral outcomes. These findings demonstrate the potential utility of the M-CHAT-R/F as a global developmental screener in infants born very preterm, regardless of whether there is a later autism diagnosis.

Journal Title

The Journal of pediatrics



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MeSH Keywords

Infant, Newborn; Infant; Humans; Autistic Disorder; Infant, Extremely Premature


autism; development; medical conditions; neurobehavior; screening; very preterm

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